The Cheer Story
Vinayak is the village in Uttarakhand, Nestles in the high up on the mountains of Uttarakhand. The slopes of these mountains are very reach interms of high altitude biodiversity. Lot of species of rare pheasants and other birds are resident here.
Earlier night, It started raining very heavily with thunder storms as weather in the mountains changes without the warning. I was referring to the Bird Guide and reading about “Cheer” and suddenly electricity went off and darkness everywhere. I decided to sleep with the last thing on my mind that time was “Cheer” . With a hope to atleast able to see it the next day. Next day It was a cold morning as when we started from our lodge at Pangot in the morning with the 1st light. As we ere gaining altitude towards Vinayak temperature was just about Zero Degrees and to add to it was the wind on the top of the mountains. Fingers were numbed even inside 2 layers of woolen gloves. Objective was to search for elusive Pheasants found there. Amongst all, Koklaas pheasant is the one which can be seen easily compared to the rest including Cheer Pheasant. We drove and drove with scanning both side of the road but without any luck. Finally decided to try for Cheer Pheasant at Cheer Point where they were seen 2 days back.
As we reached Cheer point, good news came as few of the other guides there already spotted some 6 individuals deep down the valley on the other side of the ridge. I was so happy that we could at least see them. After watching them, all other groups started leaving the place. This is how they are seen .. far down deep in the valley.. Very few have actually seen them up close as these pheasants are very shy of any humans and disturbance of what so ever kind. As i was speaking to one of the guides, got the news that He apotted a pair of Yellow-throated Marten on the same ridge early in the morning. Yellow-throat Martens are known to feed on Cheer Pheasants.
Looking through the binoculars, looking at the pace with which these Cheer Pheasants were climbing up the on the ridge, i noticed a kind of hurry and discomfort in their actions.
I immediately figured out that this might be just because of those Martens that Cheers had noticed some danger and were climbing up. I looked at the ridge very carefully and thought of one place from where they might come on the road to cross and climb up further. I immediately took my whole team to the spot and decided to wait on the road. Now the long wait started. Some from the team started losing patience as wait was longer than expected. Somehow i knew that if there has to be some miracle which needs to be happen then it was the time … I was asking them to be motionless as much as possible as these pheasants are known to be very very shy.
There the Male arrived .. all 10 Cameras started firing shutter at once…
Distribution and population
Catreus wallichii occurs in the western Himalayas from north Pakistan, through Kashmir into Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, India, and east to central Nepal. It has always been reported as uncommon with a patchy distribution owing to its specialised habitat requirements, which often bring it into close proximity to human populations. Many subpopulations are thought to number fewer than ten individuals, living in small pockets of suitable habitat.
In India it has also declined, with most known populations now confined to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The area in and around Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary appears to be important with densities of 24 pairs/km2 recorded during 1983 and more recent reports confirming the notion that a sizeable population remains (Subedi 2003), although density estimates of 4-5 pairs/km2 in 2008-1009 suggest that either earlier reported densities were overestimates or the species has undergone a substantial decline. The population in the Kai-i-nag area of Kashmir is also thought to be sizeable.
In Nepal, it appears to be localised, occurring from the Baitadi district in the west, east to the Kali Gandaki River. The most important area in the country is Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve.In Pakistan, it may now only persist in the Jhelum Valley, where it is declining and has apparently disappeared from some areas; the most recent surveys found no evidence of it at Salkhala Game Reserve or Machiara National Park where it previously occurred.
Having been widely shot for sport in the early 20th century, it is still hunted for food and trade, and its eggs are collected for local consumption. Indeed, hunters in Nepal claim that they can trap up to 50 birds in one session through the use of snares and live decoys, methods that are widespread in the species’s range. Hunting pressure in Nepal may be exacerbated by increased gun-ownership following the Maoist insurgency, especially in the west of the country. The species is hunted in remote areas to provide a traditional treatment of asthma, body pain and fever, and it may be traded locally, although in some areas local people strictly prohibit hunting.
The patchy nature of its specialised habitat may render the smallest isolated populations vulnerable to extinctions, and higher levels of disturbance, grazing and the felling of wooded ravines now pose a substantial threat. In particular, hunting pressure and habitat destruction by fire and overgrazing have been implicated in its decline in Pakistan. However, burning, grazing and timber collection are also important in maintaining moderately disturbed habitats which the species favours, and healthy populations have persisted in some heavily grazed sites such as Chail and Majathal in Himachal Pradesh, found no significant correlation between pheasant densities with grass cover or measures of grazing pressure in Dhorpatan Valley, Nepal, suggesting that current levels of grazing, timber collection and grass burning were not adversely affecting the species. Conversion of grassland to permanent arable terraces is reducing available habitat, as are schemes to plant mid-altitude grasslands with forest. Nest disturbance by dogs has also been identified as a threat.
Hydroelectric projects (HEPs) have been planned in almost all major rivers and their tributaries in Himachal Pradesh. A large area of Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary is under threat from submergence due to the contruction of the Kol Dam upriver on the Satluj River, and large-scale dam projects also threaten sites in the Beas Valley. A total of 125 planned HEPs in the major river basins include 43 HEPs in Satluj river basin, 45 in Beas river basin, 26 in Ravi river basin and 11 in Yamuna river basin.
Many populations in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand lie outside the protected area network and hence are vulnerable to illegal trapping and hunting. Furthermore, in June 2013 the boundaries of many protected areas were redefined to exclude villages, and some important habitats near human habitations (including Majathal, Chail and Kalatop Khajjiar) are now excluded from the protected area network, leaving them at greater risk of development .